Amber hasn't had a chance to learn to read; the only schoolmaster who ever came to her mountain home ""left his supplies behind and skedaddled before winter came."" Will the man who comes to build a road also find his task too difficult? Granny Cotton warns, ""You can't build a road here. Folks will roll clean off it, like walking up a wall."" Still, the man perseveres, while his equally persistent daughter Anna makes friends with shy Amber and teaches her to read; but before Amber can learn to write, the road is completed and Anna's family departs. Still, Amber struggles along on her own and is finally able to write her dear friend a letter. Johnston's beautifully honed narrative glows with mountain imagery and the warmth of the girls' friendship; Duncan, a Utah native whose fine art celebrates the rural West, makes a fine illustration debut with luminous oil paintings of the remote farmland and ebullient children. An excellent addition to the alternate-ways-to-literacy shelf.